South Burlington High School welcomed Assistant Principal John Craig at the start of the school year. Craig took the place of long time educator Pat Philips, who retired last year after 38 years in education and 13 years at SBHS.
Craig grew up in Massachusetts and has a degree in education and English from the University of Vermont. After graduating, he spent seven years teaching English at Missisquoi Valley Union in Swanton, followed by a four-year stint as associate principal at Hazen Union in Hardwick. Due to declining enrollment at Hazen, however, Craig’s position was eliminated and thus began his job search.
He applied for a variety of positions throughout northern Vermont, while keeping the key tenets of his education philosophy at the forefront — the importance of building relationships and having a solid leadership team to foster those efforts. As Craig began the interview process at SBHS, he said that it became clear very early on, that South Burlington would be a good fit. As Craig got to know Principal Patrick Burke and Assistant Principal Lissa McDonald, in addition to gleaning information about the district as a whole, he said it became evident that this was a team he was ready to join. He said he was “beyond excited” when he was offered the position last spring.
So far this year, Craig has been spending a lot of time learning what systems and programs already exist within the school and familiarizing himself with the background behind those practices. He said a recent visit and evaluation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges provided an opportunity for him to see what areas of the district are working well and where improvements could be made.
Five months in, Craig said he feels like he has been at SBHS much longer and credits the guidance of the leadership team. Specifically, Craig said the mentorship Patrick Burke has provided has been invaluable. He noted that Burke’s 20 years of administrative leadership is far greater than the average lifespan for someone in that position.
“One thing that’s awesome to see is that the leadership at the top level has the trust of the faculty and the community at large,” Craig said. “The support they have for their superintendent... it’s rare. The trust that all of the stakeholders have in each other, it’s pretty visible... I haven’t had a chance to uncover all of the benefits yet.”
Furthermore, Craig said the philosophy of SBHS and the administrative team aligns with how he views education. The relationships that are fostered via extracurriculars, sports, and clubs “are at the core of everything we’re doing as a school,” Craig said. “Helping young people learn more about themselves.”
Craig lives in Underhill with his wife Emily, their three year-old son, Emerson, and 11 month-old daughter, Beatrice. Geographically, the location is also ideal as it meant the family did not have to relocate. When he isn’t teaching, Craig is usually enjoying the outdoor with his family. This past summer, he took his son backpacking overnight on the Long Trail and noted that spending time in nature helps him to recharge for the hard work of each week. He is looking forward to the upcoming ski season and of course, putting his family’s garden to bed.
Currently, Craig serves as part of the leadership advisory team, designing curriculum for advisory programs like sophomore advisory and Student Leadership Advisory Meeting (SLAM), and building on those foundational pieces. Restorative justice is also an area Craig worked on at Hazen Union and hopes to expand upon during his time at SBHS.
“I feel grateful for this opportunity,” Craig said. “It has been an awesome start and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.”
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent